EVERY BUILDER WANTS TO TOUT A HIGH RATING on a customer service survey as a selling point to a potential customer. The problem for smaller builders is that most don't do enough annual volume to be considered by large national builder surveys such as J.D. Power and Associates.

Recognizing the need for a research firm that could deliver market research to small builders, Geoffrey Graham founded GuildQuality, an Atlanta-based company that now has 65 builders signed up for its survey service nationwide, the majority of which are in the Southeast.

Graham claims that GuildQuality surveys consistently hit a 90 percent response rate, a mark the company attains by following up e-mail surveys with phone calls and snail mail. Surveys go out 35 to 40 days after a customer moves in and are turned around within a couple of days. Along with standard performance surveys, builders can also customize a report to compare their company with a builder of a similar size in their region.

“What this lets the builder do is compare himself to another builder who builds 12 homes in his market,” says Graham. “Builders are also using the performance results as a selling tool to communicate the quality of the work they do to prospects.”

The service starts at $800 and runs up to $10,000 annually for several hundred surveys.